Prioritizing Teacher Growth

Most principals have job descriptions that easily span several pages. And though there's no shortage of important responsibilities on the list, the one that should be at the top of those pages is helping teachers extend what they do well and identifying the areas where they have the greatest potential to grow. To do this, teachers and administrators require the time and space to reflect upon classroom successes and hone in on weaknesses while prioritizing opportunities to learn rather than judge.

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Within this framework, there are many possible approaches for school administrators to utilize. But one that is gaining traction in a variety of schools where I have visited is prioritizing frequent classroom observations, even if they are only for ten-minute segments of a class. And when these observations are followed by thoughtful conversations about the range of decisions teachers make to help students learn, it often proves to be one of the most impactful uses of an administrator’s time.

During these observations and in the conversations that follow, it is helpful for school administrators to ask focused questions that apply specifically to the teacher’s curriculum and pedagogy, rather than generic ones that may be listed on a typical class observation form or in a standardized rubric. Perceptive questions generated during a class visit help teachers develop challenging yet attainable goals that may lead to professional development strategies and later assessing impacts on students' learning. All of these steps foster a collective accountability for improving everything that happens in the classroom. And through these dialogues, teachers benefit from administrative support and professional growth that can lead to a heightened degree of autonomy both for their teaching and for their own success.

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